A LOCAL boxing club is getting ready to take on its biggest challenge - the fight to find a permanent home.
“We’re looking for a place that we can call home,” Tony Somers, trainer with the Thomastown Boxing Club told the ’People. “We have a brand new ring which has been in storage for almost a year - we just haven’t been able to find a permanent home to put it up in.”
One of the newest clubs on the block, the Thomastown BC has been up and running for little over three years. The idea to set up the club there came from Tony’s daughter, Michelle, who is also heavily involved in the sport.
“My daughter had been boxing with another club, but as she had a lot of friends in Thomastown we thought there might be an opening for a club there,” said Tony. “Word spread and people joined in straight away. You have new people coming and going all the time, but the trick is to get them to come back all the time.
“You have to build a reputation to get the bigger crowds,” he added. “It’s hard to get that at the beginning - you have to get a few winners!”
Incredibly, Somers reckons that setting up the club wasn’t the biggest challenge.
“Getting the doors open was the easy bit,” he said. “Getting regulars who want to fight is the toughest part. You’ll get people who want to get fit and to train, which is great, but getting people who want to fight is harder.”
The club has around 25 boxers in its ranks at present, ranging from 8 to 17 years of age. However, more young people could be getting in the ring after Thomastown host the Laois/Carlow/Kilkenny Championships this weekend.
The competition will be a big draw for Thomastown, who can expect to host fighters from a number of counties at their temporary base in Thomastown’s Concert Hall on the Station Road this weekend.
“It will be a busy weekend,” said Somers. “We’ll be hoping to have in the region of 40 or 50 fights over the two days. Lot of clubs from Kilkenny, Carlow and Laois will be involved, while there could be fighters there from Wexford and Tipperary as well.”
Thomastown - who will be represented by Eugene Somers, Brian Barcoe, Kevin Kelly and Dylan Waugh in the boys’ events, with sisters Kirsty and Jessica Davis and Christina Begley in the girls’ bouts - have been helped along by some of Kilkenny’s older boxing clubs.
“The established clubs in the county, Paulstown and the Marble City (Kilkenny), have been helping us along the way,” said a grateful Somers. “They have offered great assistance to keep our club up and running, and one of the ways was to see if we could host this tournament. I asked about using the hall and we got the go-ahead.”
Fighting out of the Concert Hall is fine at present, but the club is still looking for something more permanent.
“All we want is somewhere which has basic facilities for the club, as well as enough room to put up the new ring and leave it there,” he said. “Everyone needs a place to call their own - you need to have your own base. Paulstown, the Marble City and Callan have theirs; it’s important that we do too.”
With boxing grabbing more and more attention in Kilkenny, a new home could help the Thomastown club increase their membership numbers.
“Word of our club has spread outside of Thomastown,” said Somers. “We’re getting people who want to join from Graignamanagh and Graiguecullen. They are trying to organise a bus to come from those areas so that they can get twice as many people to come along.”
The club’s fighters have a number of trainers to look after them, but no-one is rushed into the ring.
“We teach them to defend themselves first, to get their stance right,” Somers said of his new recruits. “Then, they start light sparring and keep things building up. If they are there a couple of months they can go full sparring.
Bring up slowly
“We bring them up slowly - if you throw them in too early it can ruin their relationship with the sport,” he added. “You might never get them back and might miss out on a good prospect.”
With the club hosting the championships this weekend, Somers is hoping that Saturday and Sunday will be a knockout success for Thomastown.
“Everyone in the club is really looking forward to the championships,” he said. “With five of the seven fighters coming from Thomastown, we’re hoping it will stir up a bit of interest.”
The championships will start at 6pm on Saturday, while Sunday’s fights start at 2pm. Categories ranges from Boy 1 up to Youth (17 years of age) levels, while there will be girls’ fights also.
And one young fighter will be going home with a special souvenir of the weekend.
“The Thomastown club will be donating a perpetual plaque for the boxer of the tournament,” said Somers. “We’ll be getting all of the coaches to vote on who they think is the boxer of the weekend.
“It will give the boxers something to fight for, as well as their title,” he added. “The recipient could be someone who loses their bout but puts up a good fight - a genuine fighter.”